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'Secularism'-Obsessed Quebec Is Making Immigrants Take a Values Test

"The values test is based on stereotypes about Muslims. Let's not pretend that it is anything else."

by Manisha Krishnan
Oct 30 2019, 8:24pm

As of January, immigrants wanted to live in Quebec will have to take a values test. Graham Hughes/Canadian Press

As if it isn’t bad enough that the Quebec government is banning people who wear religious symbols from working in public sector jobs, new immigrants who want to move there will now face a “values test.”

The Coalition Avenir Québec government announced Wednesday that starting in January, economic immigrants hoping to live in the province will need to pass a test on “democratic values and the Québec values expressed by the Charter of human rights and freedoms.”

A person must pass that test with a score of at least 75 percent—those who fail can retake it. People who pass the 20-question test will obtain a Certificat de sélection du Québec, which they need to apply for permanent residency.

Speaking to reporters about the test, Premier François Legault emphasized Quebec’s secularism law. Bill 21 states that no one wearing a religious symbol such as a turban or hijab can work in the public sector. That means teachers, bus drivers, and government employees, among others, are banned from wearing religious symbols.

“I wouldn’t want someone to be surprised to find out that in Quebec persons in positions of authority are not allowed to wear religious symbols,” Legault said. “It’s important that people who want to come and live in Quebec know that women are equal to men."

As reported by the CBC, sample questions released by the CAQ include:

Since March 29, 2019, by virtue of the law respecting the laicity of the state, all new police officers may not wear religious symbols.

  • True
  • False

and

Identify which situations involve discrimination. A job is refused:

  • To a woman who is pregnant
  • To a person lacking the required diploma
  • To a person because of their ethnic background

(Funnily enough, the answer “to a person wearing a religious symbol” wasn’t an option.)

While Legault didn’t single out any religion, Amira Elghawaby, a board member with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said the values test is clearly stoking islamophobia.

“The values test is based on stereotypes about Muslims. Let's not pretend that it is anything else," she said. “The government doesn't seem to care that it is fuelling further fear and suspicion of Muslim communities, which can spill over towards other minority communities as we've seen with Bill 21 and its impacts on Sikh, Jewish, and other religious minorities."

During the federal election campaign, the Bloc Quebecois urged voters to “Optez pour des femmes et des hommes qui vous ressemblent,” meaning choose candidates who look like you, or who are like you. The Bloc ended up winning 32 seats, making huge gains from the 10 seats it won during the 2015 election.

Elghawaby said the values test is just the province's latest attempt to sanction xenophobia.

“Almost three years after the Quebec City massacre, nothing has truly changed—Muslims in Quebec continue to be targeted politically because it is an easy way to win popular support. It is sad and shameful.”

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch proposed a similar values test for immigrants in 2017, which was viewed by many as a racist dog whistle.

Prospective Canadian citizens already need to pass a test that quizzes their knowledge of the country’s laws and history.

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